Easier access to accessible materials
- date: 08.02.2023
Easier access to accessible materials
STEM courses are very challenging for students with visual impairments due to the mathematical portions: formulas, diagrams and graphical content are presented visually and are therefore not accessible with read-aloud software. So far, only a few universities can offer professional support for the preparation of this content. A central platform that provides information and makes accessible materials available is the goal of the "Math4IP" project. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are contributing their expertise in digital accessibility and assistive technologies.
Up to now, affected students have mostly been dependent on assistive technologies that they have to acquire themselves. They are often left to their own devices, which can have a negative impact on their academic success.
The team of the project "Math4VIP - A new dimension in the accessibility of mathematical teaching content for visually impaired students in STEM subjects", in which Professor Ilka Agricola, mathematician at Philipps-Universität Marburg, and Dr. Thorsten Schwarz from the Center for Digital Accessibility and Assistive Technologies at KIT (ACCESS@KIT) are working together, wants to change this.
New standards, materials, and guidelines for more accessibility
Their common goal is a central platform that provides information on barrier-free access to mathematics and on the necessary steps for barrier-free preparation of mathematical content for students with visual impairments. In the process, new standards will be developed, materials will be created according to the standards, and guides will be written and publicized.
"At each individual university, only a few students with severe visual impairments study, so people often resort to short-term ad hoc solutions. We want to change this and thus jointly create a portal that delivers real added value in the German-speaking world," says project manager Agricola. Members of other universities can then upload their own materials and thus contribute to the growth of the database. Overall, students with visual impairments from the German-speaking world should thus have easier access to accessible materials, regardless of which university they study at.
ACCESS@KIT supports students with visual impairment for more than 35 years
At KIT, the Center for Digital Accessibility and Assistive Technologies (ACCESS@KIT) has been advising and supporting students and prospective students with visual impairments and blindness in all study subjects offered at KIT for more than 35 years. At the same time, the ACCESS@KIT, anchored at the KIT Faculty of Computer Science, is engaged in research and teaching. "We develop, also together with our students, new approaches to all fields relevant in MINT subjects. This is especially true for mathematics: the preparation of the necessary graphics into a tactile version is unique to us," Schwarz explains. To this end, the ACCESS@KIT has a laboratory for a wide range of printing techniques and a workroom for students with state-of-the-art output devices, such as two-dimensional Braille displays. More than 20,000 tactile graphics are created at ACCESS@KIT each year, in addition to 3D models made of plastic and wood. "We are bringing these many years of experience to Math4VIP to help shape the groundbreaking standardization of textual descriptions of graphics and formulas," says Schwarz.
Pioneer Project Initiative: Impulses for the science system
The Volkswagen Foundation is funding the Math4VIP project in the funding line "Pioneer Projects - Impulses for the Science System" for three years with a total amount of about 500,000 euros. With this funding offer, the foundation aims to create experimental spaces for fundamental innovations and substantial improvements in areas of the German science system. To this end, promising ideas for pioneering projects from the scientific community are to be taken up and funded.